Reflection on my fellowship with Natural Justice: Maxwel Omondi

By Maxwel Omondi

My Fellowship with Natural Justice was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I joined in August 2019 at a point in time when preparation for the 2020 Convention on Biodiversity was at its peak. I was allowed to participate in all projects. However, most of my early days were spent learning and asking questions to understand the nature of Natural Justice’s work. It made me happy – team members never shied away from answering my questions and guiding me.

As a research fellow, I was a valued team member. Not only was I invited to various high-profile meetings, strategy meetings, and environmental Justice Forums, but my inputs into these spaces were welcomed, taken seriously, and implemented.

One of the greatest opportunities that rings in my mind as I write this piece was a chance I was given to represent Natural Justice as a rapporteur during the post-2020 CBD meeting at the UN office in Nairobi. The meeting was to engage relevant state parties and stakeholders in laying down a road map that would lead to the development of a more robust and comprehensive Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

While at the UN, I was lucky to interact with Kenyan delegates, as well as other delegates from other countries. I learned how working groups and international negotiations are carried out. Most importantly, I got to connect the dots on what one of senior program officers meant when he told me that Natural Justice works with communities and create platforms for them to air their voices -from the local to national spaces, and even into international spaces. In attendance were representatives of communities we worked with, who were all given a chance to air their issues.

One of the breathtaking moments during my time was a trip to visit coastal communities to get firsthand experience of the Environmental Justice issues they faced. This trip gave me a picture of what our work looked like and further cured my curiosity. Listening to program officers in office sharing problems faced by communities could not answer all my questions; I could only yearn to see myself. I cannot mention a trip to Kilifi without remembering octopus, mbaazi, and coconut we took together with my colleagues, not forgetting the shallow wells we dug at Al-Sherman to get fresh water to quench our thirst.

Natural Justice was my home for more than a year. Many were the light moments we shared as a team that holds us together, aside from work. I can recall the birthday and wedding cakes we shared, the funny stories, and laugher during lunch hour, end-of-year party, and retreat meeting that bonded the African team together. I am glad these experiences taught me what to look for in my future career, as far as excellent work culture is concerned.

As someone who lived a complete life at Natural Justice, many are the successes I celebrated, and many were frustrations I went through, internally. One of my tasks was to drop access to information letters to the National Environmental Management Authority and other institutions. This task was not as easy as said; I would celebrate whenever I got a positive response, but many were the times I felt frustrated and drained, especially at times when I made a significant number of visits to these institutions without any feedback. I learned to be patient.

I cannot pen down all of my many memories. I just want to say this; that Natural Justice is a great organization that any person would yearn to work and grow with.

15 October 2020

Themes

Countries

Kenya

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